An executive chef who was also an avid homebrewer, once told us something that has guided the way we approach beer and food pairings. He said that beer should be used as a compliment to a dish and that only in very rare cases it is appropriate in the food itself. However, The Craft Beer Bites Cookbook by Jacquelyn Dodd turned this mantra on its head.
The Craft Beer Bites Cookbook is comprised of 100 recipes for sliders, skewers, desserts and more, all with the wonderful addition of amazing craft beer. These are meant to be created as small bites, hence the name, but we’ve found that by doing some simple changes, you can actually turn these into full-blown meals.
Recently we were hosting a dinner for a group of friends. When these beer savvy friends arrived, we broke out the first course of Hawaiian IPA Pulled Pork Sliders. They were impressed with this amuse bouche and asked for the recipe; we laughed and didn’t respond. For the second course, we broke out a selection of two different crostini: Beer-Braised Carnitas and Stout-Soaked Mushroom with Herbed Goat Cheese. Again, they were very impressed with the food and requested the recipes; and again, we politely changed the topic. After a seasonal salad with an IPA dressing, the main course of Beer Pesto and Beer Ricotta pizza was served. Once we filled our stomachs to near bursting, we broke out the dessert of a chocolate stout cake with chocolate stout cream cheese frosting.
While enjoying a Black Tuesday for a nightcap, we started to talk about the meal. Everyone was surprised to learn that with the exception of the salad dressing (a recipe that we’ve used since a trip to Bend, Oregon earlier this year) all of the recipes came out of a single book. Cooking with beer is very difficult; looking back, we realize that’s the reason that our executive chef friend said not to try it. What he meant is more likely “leave it to the pros”. If you are not trained in the manner in which a beer will affect the finished dish, it can really ruin an otherwise nice plate. The Craft Beer Bites Cookbook takes care of the trials and errors required to develop meaningful additions and compiles them in one location. It will also inspire you to try some new cooking styles and a variety of ingredients that you may not be familiar with. The only downside of this book is that it is not for a beginner in the kitchen, but it was never intended to be a book that teaches you how to cook. Some of the ingredients are difficult to obtain and a few of the techniques are out of the norm, but this is what makes the book interesting and unique.
If you are looking for a couple of recipes to try out and impress some of your friends, The Craft Beer Bites Cookbook is a good resource to turn to on your bookshelf. We recommend this book for anyone interested in craft beer and especially to those who enjoy cooking.